Gun Shy
directed by Eric Blakeney
(Buena Vista, 2000)

Fulvio Nesstra, son-in-law of the great Don Carmine, hates his overbearing wife, hates his job, hates his life. He's tired of running deals gone sour for the old Mafia giant. Fidel Vaillar, son of a Colombian cartel boss, miserably keeps his secret life separate from his family.

If only those two knew the DEA agent in charge of hunting them down and setting them up, Charlie, is a gastrointestinal wreck on the verge of a personal and professional breakdown.

Seems no man is happy nowadays, even the ones with exciting, seat-of-your pants lives. Gun Shy, Eric Blakeney's first movie as a director, follows Charlie (Liam Neeson) as he moves in for one more setup: Get the Colombians' money and shut them down.

In an effort to hold it together for one more sting operation, Charlie seeks out a therapist, who sends him to a gastroenterologist, where he meets perky assistant Judy Tipp while she gives him an enema. They fall for each other (go figure).

Charlie bares his soul to his group therapy mates. He befriends Fulvio (Oliver Platt), who keeps the peace with the Colombians and the yuppie who's laundering their dirty money. And, as the sting gets closer, Charlie must level with Judy, keep everyone from shooting each other and -- which takes up an awful lot of movie time -- keep his growling stomach from ruining his life.

It's all a weird combination, and it has comedic moments which flash brightly. But what strings together those moments is awfully disjointed. Platt, when he's onscreen, is impossible to ignore. His I'd-rather-be-a-tomato-farmer wish is so at odds with his hitman skills -- and those are impressive skills, as he, in one hilarious hatchet-wielding scene, vents his rage at a poor neighbor he suspects of stealing the sports pages. Neeson, too, does the best he can with what he's been given: When he takes his turn at group therapy and spills all, he leaves his colleagues' woes ("My boss ignores me." "She bought the ice cream I don't like.") in the dust.

There's a nice X-Files insider reference for fans of the television show, an amusing turn by Richard Schiff of The West Wing as Elliott the beleaguered man with "corporate Tourette's" and some neat moments at the beginning -- flashbacks to Charlie's last sting going bad, that are imaginative in storyline and filming.

But the holes, the plot lines contorted into neat little happy-ending packages and the plot continuity problems, rear up early and often. Sandra Bullock produced this film, but her character, love interest Judy, could have been dropped altogether and no one would miss anything. The Colombians are those one-dimensional drug lords, sensitive about their manhood; the Italian wife is a belittling shrew. One character who's straight at the beginning is gay at the end, maybe to get a whole new line of jokes going. And the ending feels like it was zapped onto the end so everyone could get on to their next project.

If you, like I, are a fan of both Neeson and Platt, it's an OK way to spend 102 minutes. But all of these actors have had films turn out better, and they're at your local video store.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 22 September 2001

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